Not Just Tofu

Sneaky Bandits: MSG & Gelatin

In Editorial on July 17, 2014 at 6:03 pm

chinese take out Have you ever wondered why your favorite Chinese food leaves you bloated or with a headache? You could be reacting to the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate.  How about that bag of gummi bears you keep in your desk draw? Do you know what makes them so gummy? We are so concerned about eating organic and not buying GMO products, yet and still we mindlessly eat food that won’t make us sick but they won’t keep us well either.

I like Chinese takeout, I often use it as my go to when running late with dinner.  While in the food court at a local mall, I saw a sign that said no MSG. A little light bulb went off in my mind; do people know how much MSG they eat everyday? Monosodium glutamate aka MSG can be found in flavored chips, frozen dinners, salad dressings, seasoning packets and Chinese takeout.  MSG is used to help create flavor by manufacturers in the same way they use sugar and salt.  I remember watching “No Reservations” and while Anthony Bourdain was in either Costa Rica or Panama they purposely added MSG to their dishes.  In my local Korean market, you can find bottles of MSG like you find salt. MSG has not been proven to cause any damage over long-term use but some people do have a reaction to it; some get bloated while others can get headaches.  Next time you eat Chinese takeout or eat a bag of BBQ chips, gauge how you feel.

msgWhy do we need a flavor enhancers? Is it because our food has become so artificial that we need to add MSG to make it taste good. When you cooked last night’s dinner, did you need to enhance the flavor or was it delicious on its own? We don’t need MSG in our kitchens!  This just proves my point, the more you cook the better off you will be.  When you are in control of what goes in your dishes, you can control the flavor.  Who doesn’t like control? So it’s not only the GMO products we should be concerned about but the MSG too.  Take this pledge with me ” I will try not to cook with or eat anything artificial.”

With that thought in mind, I never bought my kids Chef Boy Ardee ravioli or beefaroni or…I think you get my drift.  We also never bought Hawaiian Punch or bologna because they were too artificial and highly processed. It wasn’t until years later that I started to read the ingredients on snacks that I was used to. One day I was eating a Starburst, my church aunt told me that they were made with gelatin.  Knowing that gelatin was derived from questionable sources of meat including the pig, I knew that it was a no-no.  From that moment on I started to wonder what else was in the snacks that I didn’t want me or my family to eat.  I found gelatin in marshmallows which make rice crispy treats, go in cereals and used to decorate desserts, gummi bears, jello snacks, Pop Tarts and yogurt.  Most surprising place I found a use for gelatin was in vitamins. The list grew longer and longer. So what you ask?pop tart

If you don’t want to put harsh pesticides, artificial colors or flavors into our bodies, why are you eating collagen from discarded carcasses in your snacks? Sometimes it may be a cow, other times it may be pig. Did you know that they use the ears, the skin and the feet to create gelatin? No matter how you put a spin on it, vegetarian or not, it just isn’t something you want to eat today or any other day.  FDA says it’s ok, but the FDA says using pesticides and feeding livestock hormones is OK too but I don’t see you buying that.  Just because the FDA approves it, doesn’t mean that it passes your test.

There are healthy alternatives to gelatin and MSG.  Instead of gelatin, try pectin or venture off to Whole Foods and purchase vegetarian gelatin made from seaweed.  If in a bind, I would use a Kosher Product just because I believe their standard of butchering is more sanitary than a regular slaughter-house.  Beware of the “k” found on packages, which I always thought meant  that Kosher gelatin was used but that is not always the case.  As for MSG, try using citrus zest, fresh herbs and exotic spices to enhance the flavor of whatever you are cooking.  Let cooking be an organic activity; meaning don’t bring a bunch of artificial ingredients to an original experience.

Shop wisely, prepare carefully and eat well.

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